Aussies Launch Innovative Program on Alzheimer's
Hooray for the Aussies! They’ve taken the lead in creating a new program this fall that focuses on encouraging the country’s citizens to make lifestyle changes in order to lower their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Australia launched the new program, Your Brain Matters, which is the world’s first publicly funded initiative that promotes brain health along with physical and cardiovascular health. This effort has already reached an audience of more than 20 million people since its launch in September.
Your Brain Matters is a guide that has been designed to help people look after their mind, body and heart. It also is designed for people of all ages. “The Australian Government is the first government globally to introduce public policy around dementia risk reduction through the Department of Health and Ageing, which means it is being recognized as a chronic disease and not just a normal part of ageing, and for that we congratulate them,” said Glenn Rees, the chief executive officer of Alzheimer’s Australia.
“Evidence-based programs like Your Brain Matters, developed by Alzheimer’s Australia, are crucial in trying to stem the incidence of dementia,” said Dr. Serge Gauthier, the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Unit at the Centre for Studies in Ageing at Canada’s McGill University in an announcement.
The launch of this program coincided with the publication of a new paper by Alzheimer’s Australia’s Dr. Maree Farro and Elodie O’Connor that focused on lifestyle and medical factors that when taken in middle age, may impact a person’s risk of developing this types of neurological conditions. The paper also throws cold water on popular beliefs related to dementia.
- Aluminum - For instance, the researchers found no evidence supporting the notion that typical exposure to aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. They suggested that there is potential for abnormally high levels to pose a risk, but that the population is not in danger from typical levels of aluminum that are found in the environment, cooking utensils or deodorants.
- Caffeine - Evidence about the protective effect of caffeine is conflicting; therefore , the increasing the amount of caffeine consumed in order to reduce the risk of dementia is not recommended.
- Ginkgo biloba – This plant also cannot be recommended at this point for preventing or treating cognitive impairment or dementia; however, the researchers encouraged continued research. General anesthesia – the researchers found little research linking anesthesia and surgery to worsening cases of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or mild cognitive impairment. “Tis possibility though suggests that non-urgent surgery should be carefully considered for people with these conditions,” they wrote, adding that they encouraged additional research to look at the long-term effect of anesthesia on cognitive function.
- Inflammation and anti-inflammation medications – “A review concluded that these studies do not provide consistent support for an association between elevated inflammatory markers and risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but associations between higher levels of inflammatory markers and risk for any dementia are more suggestive, consistent with a reported link between inflammation and vascular dementia,” the researchers wrote. They noted that research into non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is mixed in relation to dementia. Because these drugs can have significant side effects, the researchers caution against using them for reducing dementia risk until additional evidence is found that supports their use.
- Estrogen and hormone replacement therapy – The researchers’ analysis found that hormone replacement therapy may benefit cognitive health if it is used while going through the menopausal transition or soon thereafter. However, this type of therapy has been found in some studies to have detrimental effects if initiated later in life. Therefore, the researchers recommend taking hormone replacement therapy only to alleviate postmenopausal symptoms when a woman is in midlife and should not be taken to reduce the risk of dementia.
- Stress - The researchers pointed to studies that suggest how you react to stress that may be a factor. “It appears that exposure to stress per se may not be associated with dementia, and is not associated with the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, but personality characteristics that make people more vulnerable to stress may be associated with increased dementia risk,” they wrote.
- Testosterone – Studies suggest that reduction in testosterone through the aging process may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, additional research is needed to determine the optimal level of testosterone supplementation that might assist in preventing or treating cognitive decline
- Vitamin D – There is some research that suggests that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of cognitive impairment. However, the researchers also noted that there are some conflicting findings so additional studies are necessary, especially as to whether vitamin D supplementation can lower the risk of cognitive decline.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Farrow, M. & O’Connor, E. (2012). Targeting brain, body and heart for cognitive health and dementia prevention. Alzheimer’s Australia.
Alzheimer’s Australia. (2012). Your Brain Matters: Australia announces world-first health program to tackle dementia epidemic. Press release.